Old Wolf

The man awoke moments before his alarm went off.  This always happened but he still made sure that he had wound it, muffled the bells and set the little red arm to the correct time.  Karl didn’t want to rouse his poor tired wife whenever he woke mid-eve and set about his duties.  Reaching over with his withered arm, he grasped the clock by the top, fingers on either side of the clapper and gently depressed the button before he brought it closer to his face, turned it over and switched off the alarm lever.  The phosphorescent numbers told him that it was eleven thirty seven.  Good.  Gently replacing the clock on the bedside table, turning it to face away from his wife, he slowly, carefully, slid his legs out of the covers.  Keeping the blankets to the bed as he rose so as to not introduce cold air to the warm little nest he had shared every night for the past fifty years, he slowly extricated himself and stood.

The man looked toward the tightly drawn curtains and was able to make out thin shafts of moonlight creeping in as if it were cognoscente and seeking him out.  He smiled at this thought and stretched, noting every creak, pain, crack and tightness that resulted from this action.  Gently, he touched her on the cheek and with resolve walked as softly as possible out the door into the darkness of the hallway, shutting it completely as he did.  “Goodbye Martina” he mouthed as he went.  It was time to go.  She would be fine.  She was of strong Russian stock and the years together since they met across the wall in what was then East Germany did not water down her fiercely independent nature.    She would be fine without him.  The boys would take care of her as always.

Dressing in his worn work clothes he stepped out into the cool night air carrying his boots in his hands until he stepped off of the wooden deck and onto the gravel pathway.  Donning the boots and not bothering to lace them, he slid into the vehicle and removed the handbrake, allowing it to slide quietly backward down the long drive and onto the tar and chip roadway.  He cranked the wheel at the last moment to back the vehicle toward the east, then turned the key and as quietly as possible drove west toward the woods.

Moonlight shone on his face, dappled by the fir trees, on either side of the road.  He looked toward the mountain and saw the moon was finally rising above it, full and blazing in the clarity of the cold autumn night.  His back tingled and his hair itched at the sight but after sixty years he was able to control the change, remaining clear and calm and in full control unlike those youthful evenings when all was new and wild and full of excitement.  A car park came into view  upon the right after a quarter hour and thankfully no other vehicles were stopped within.  He slid into the lot, turned off the vehicle and went about the business of removing all identifying materials within as well as the license plates which he tossed over the nearby cliff into the deep cold river below. Dousing the interior with petrol he then removed his clothing until he was completely naked, throwing the items in the window.  Karl lit a single wooden match, tossing it too into the car.  The conflagration was immediate and he briskly walked away from the ensuing blaze into the wood.

Karl walked down one deer path then another until he found a small grassy meadow. Waiting as a single small cloud jutted across the sky, he shivered in the chill air and crossed his weak thin arms across his chest.  The distant sound of crackling from the fire could be heard followed by a “whump” as the fuel tank finally went.  Orange light from the direction of the car park intensified briefly through the trees then diminished.  The cloud at last passed from view as Karl was bathed in the milky white light from his friend the moon.  He closed his eyes, concentrated, dropped to all fours and the change came over him.

His wife had noted yet again that the day previous he had eaten like a teenage boy.  Breakfast, mid-morning, lunch, midday, dinner and before bed.  He gorged himself on meat, eggs, breads and milk, straight from the jug.  He knew best that when he allowed the change to occur he need consume vast quantities of protein calcium and carbohydrates otherwise he would need to feed.  With control of the change came control or at least better control of the urges to kill.  He had not done so in over a decade and he had no plans to do so tonight, the night of his final transformation.  It was not right and given his age and decrepitude, even when in his night-form, it was not safe to end up in a battle for ones life because a random person with a firearm stumbled upon him worrying a corpse.  It had happened.  More than once.

His bones stretched, knitting together as they did to form longer thicker mammalians support for his soon to be larger self.  Muscles lengthened and thickened, hair sprouted, jaw extended and teeth grew longer and sharper.  He moaned and groaned for it was always a painful process but he also revelled in the almost pleasurable pain that came alongside the agony, and eventually becoming predominant.  Soon, he lay still on his side upon the grass, panting, sweaty and reeking of that wet musky canine smell that came with becoming a wolf.  A wolf-man.  A were-wolf.  His fur patchy with mange, his ear bent from an age old fight with a long dead adversary, scars now visible on his taught bluish white skin.  He stood and shook, droplets of sweat and dew flying into the air creating a small orb of moonlit moisture around his large ominous form.  With a snort, he flew into the trees for a final run, fully aware of where he was headed.  \

Boris waved goodbye to his friends swinging his football scarf around him in the air as he did.  Their favourite team, VfB Stuttgart had won for the second time in a week and were rapidly moving up the ladder.  He loved his Swabians as did they and sang along with them as they walked in opposite directions, soon dropped down into a quiet hum as they passed beyond his range of hearing.  It had been a glorious day and a glorious night at the pub.  He marched along the jogging path toward home, a small farmers cottage he rented far from the edge of town.  This was where he spend his days writing and painting, working on yet another coffee table book of black and whites of mountains, gorges and wildlife that American tourists snapped up like toddlers at a candy store.  It was a good life.

The beer was making him sleepy and most likely to an onlooker visibly drunk given a few stumbles he had just made off of the pavement and into the underbrush.  He laughed to himself aloud saying “better be careful” as he stopped and pulled his knapsack off of his shoulders, removing a piece of hard sausage and cheese.  He nibbled as he walked toward a small bench at the edge of the walk.  He had a ways to go and maybe a bit of food would sober him up a little he decided.  He didn’t want to spend another night in the jail for public intoxication.  The local Commissar had it in for him after that evening he spent with the mans daughter at his little Dacha.

He chewed the sausage and sipped at a flask of water he always carried on his long walks as he leaned back looking up through the trees at the stars above.  He was about to drift off and roused himself quickly, shaking his head as he did, the light from the moon peeking through the trees and shining into his eye causing him to squint.  “Woah Boris.  Wake up” he said aloud. “NOT a good idea.” then sat, packed the remaining food into the knapsack and stretched upward issuing a roar into the sky as he did.   He did not hear the growl or that rapidly increasing padding toward him.  As his hands dropped, he again spoke “okay, lets go” and placed his hands on the cold damp painted wooden slats of the bench to press upward as the wolf hit, teeth, broken and yellow with age, driving into his shoulder  and arm.  He screamed as a second bite hit closer to his chest, a huge black powerful head shook him, then tossed him aside.  Grasping at his wounds Boris tried to scurry backward away from the looming shadow.  It growled, panted, snarled and bared teeth then jumped forward, this time latching on to his thigh.  Boris screamed and batted at the head with his flask as he felt the teeth dig deep into the muscle and the hot breath bathing the wound.  Again the animal shook, saliva and blood filling the air laced with screams and muffled snarling.  Then at once, it was over.

Boris rolled in pain among the dirt and leaves.  Blood oozed from his gaping wounds and steam from it and his breath rose into the cold night sky.  As he began to lose consciousness he was able to make out the sounds of feet running his way, voices and flashes of light. He was also able to feel a tingling in his chest, arm and shoulder.  Like novocaine, the tingle took away the pain and brought on a deep, restful, painless sleep.  Many sets of hands lifted him, carried him to the walkway.  Distant voices yelled for an ambulance and blankets and bandages.  Voices were saying “Its okay Boris, we have you.” He recognized them.  He was at peace.  He was drifting but he knew he was not dying.  Blackness came.

Karl ran.  Karl ran through the woods like the first time he became one with the night.  Karl ran and leapt and burst through bushes and under boughs of low growing pines and did not stop.  Karl could feel his heart pumping and pounding and knew it would not hold on much longer but that was fine.  Being wolf did not make one immortal.  Being wolf only made you stronger.  Karl knew that wolves like humans had a limited lifespan.  He ran and slid mercurially through the trees and fields and up, up, up the mountainside until he could run no more.  He stopped and caught his breath and ran even more until finally near the peak of his beloved Hockblauen he collapsed.  This was near where he had first received his bite while camping one hot summer many years ago.  He could remember the smell of the air and the sound of the night wind as he lay alone beside the smouldering fire, hawks circling overhead that would be disappointed that there was no meal to be had.  He could remember it all and as he lay panting, his heart finally giving out.  Karl knew that he had completed the circle.  Karl lay still rapidly becoming cold as he slowly allowed himself to become again, fully, Karl.  Karl the father, husband, carpenter.  Karl the proud German.  With a smile, he allowed his tired form to die as he quietly howled to himself with his own human voice at his friend, the moon.

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